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Tilting at Windmills

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June 16, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

IRAN UPDATE....The Washington Post reports, essentially, that the Iranian economy is cratering, the public is increasingly restive, and the ruling regime is scared. So they're putting the screws on:

"The current crackdown is a way to instill fear in the population in order to discourage them from future political agitation as the economic situation begins to deteriorate," said Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "You're going to think twice about taking to the streets to protest the hike in gasoline prices if you know the regime's paramilitary forces have been on a head-cracking spree the last few weeks."

Despite promises to use Iran's oil revenue to aid the poor, Ahmadinejad's economic policies have backfired, triggering 20 percent inflation over the past year, increased poverty and a 25 percent rise in the price of gas last month. More than 50 of the country's leading economists wrote an open letter to Ahmadinejad this week warning that he is ignoring basic economics and endangering the country's future.

....Iran's Supreme National Security Council last month also laid out new censorship rules in a letter to news outlets, instructing them to refrain from writing about public security, oil price increases, new international economic sanctions, inflation, civil society movements, or negotiations with the United States on the future of Iraq, according to Iranian journalists.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Dick Cheney is still busily pushing for military strikes. Ain't life grand?

Kevin Drum 2:03 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (76)

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....Iran's Supreme National Security Council last month also laid out new censorship rules in a letter to news outlets, instructing them to refrain from writing about public security, oil price increases, new international economic sanctions, inflation, civil society movements, or negotiations with the United States on the future of Iraq, according to Iranian journalists.

Just shows how naive these guys are. They haven't yet mastered the art of making sure that mainstream journalists are your lap dogs and the critics are relegated to pontificating in blogs read only by nerdy men glued to their computers in the basement of their grandmas' homes.

Posted by: gregor on June 16, 2007 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

If Cheney were one of three people on Earth, he'd be pushing one of the other two to attack the third one. He loves to see others fight and make money in the process.

Posted by: hollywood on June 16, 2007 at 2:29 AM | PERMALINK

All of which, yet again, underlines how counter-productive US foreign policy has been these last 6 years across the board: Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Europe, on and on. And you'd have to say deliberately so. Thanks to Cheney, Wolfowitz, Kristol, Prince of Darkness, Yoo, and all the PNAC-nuts that we have put up with without either laughing them out of power or impeaching their traitorous asses.

More fool us.

Posted by: notthere on June 16, 2007 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

Anybody comfy with the thought that causing a 'blowup' incinerating governments in the Middle East is the agenda - U.S. forces and economy seen as inconsequential (or even desirable) casualties ? That would tend to set the stage for GWB's martial law in the U.S. legislation during time of emergency.

Posted by: opit on June 16, 2007 at 2:39 AM | PERMALINK

What a time to let nature take it's course and the Iranian situation play itself out until the Iranians themselves make the passionate push for democracy and freedom. Wonder what Cheney/Bush will do?

Posted by: bmaz on June 16, 2007 at 2:41 AM | PERMALINK

Ahmadinejad's economic policies have backfired

Oh for fucks sake. Ahmadinejad has no policies. The mullahs run the show, and he is just a thumb in Bush's eye that might have backfired on the ruling council. Last fall, during one of his speeches, students at his alma mater set pictures of him alight and his motorcade was so rattled they bounced off one another. He took as bad a "thumpin'" as aWol did a couple of weeks later.

To give him credit for "policies" is utter bullshit.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 16, 2007 at 2:52 AM | PERMALINK

Truth to tell, The pair would make a fair skit for "The Goon Show".

Posted by: opit on June 16, 2007 at 2:55 AM | PERMALINK

In Iran they have similar news stories about the US real estate market and its trade deficit.

The US and European economic boycotts are hurting Iran, theough. It is true, I am sure. The policy of using the clout of the US economy to abuse antagonists should not be underestimated, it validates the strategy Cheney helped to develop. I wish I had good advice for the Iranians, it seems they are doomed because of their oil and competitiveness by the huge power capital wields.

Posted by: Brojo on June 16, 2007 at 2:58 AM | PERMALINK

Abusing the power of U.S. currency deposit access is something I directly relate to an exploding negative reassessment of it as a reliable international medium of exchange : especially when combined with trade deficits from hell and ridiculous 'overdrafts' in the budgets. Time to break out the wheelbarrows to carry enough to buy groceries is not a comforting concept - but it has, in practical terms, been promoted.

Posted by: opit on June 16, 2007 at 3:05 AM | PERMALINK

Not sure of the point here. What is the benefit to the US of Iran's economy cratering and the public being restive? Does this make Iran less dangerous or less likely to continue towards the possibility of nuclear weapons? When the "ruling regime is scared", doesn't that increase the chance that they would look to create an external issue or threat to take the focus off the internal issues??

Posted by: pencarrow on June 16, 2007 at 3:06 AM | PERMALINK

Everything this administration has done on the foreign aqffairs scene has been to the detriment of the USA and, at worst, a disater. They need to be cuffed (in both senses) by the House.

Ditto what BGRS said. This adminstration keeps pushing this guy as a threat to stand against, but he would have fallen to political oblivion already if it wasn't for their (Bush & co.) errant policies and mouthings.

Same thing in Gaza. See how that turned out.

Well, if you're a PNAC-nut, you'd say "well".

Posted by: notthere on June 16, 2007 at 3:07 AM | PERMALINK

PNAC - nut ? Absolutely - but only because I can find no other explanation more consistent with observable facts. Let me have it.

Posted by: opit on June 16, 2007 at 3:10 AM | PERMALINK

What is the benefit to the US of Iran's economy cratering and the public being restive?

See: PNAC

Posted by: Brojo on June 16, 2007 at 3:13 AM | PERMALINK

For the entire time I have been posting here, every time Iran comes up, I repeat myself - if we leave well enough alone, the monolithic energy economy will bring down the Mullahs, and change will come in roughly a decade, give or take a couple of year.

aWol looses whats left of his feeble mind, and starts something - and the Mullahs are in power for 50-100 years. However long the oil lasts.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 16, 2007 at 3:14 AM | PERMALINK

Ahmadinejad has no policies. The mullahs run the show

BGRS, I don't think this is right. I think Ahmadinejad has influence over economic policies. He has no control over the country's military.

Posted by: mattsteinglass on June 16, 2007 at 3:17 AM | PERMALINK

Brojo
We're talking a bit at cross-purposes here. The idea behind the bankers' takeover - which is pretty much a fait accompli - is to impose debt which is unpayable in practical terms and force obedience to any and all demands by financial coercion.
PNAC might actually be considered a bit of misdirection on the road to power - and has the salutary effect of showing what utter ruthlessness really means by destroying governments, order, and countless millions of lives. Taken to its logical extreme, it would make the Third Reich look like a dress rehearsal
. It is the penultimate conspiracy theory of the New World Order.

Posted by: opit on June 16, 2007 at 3:26 AM | PERMALINK

Iran is weak, and liberals are saying that is somehow bad news.

Thank God for leaders like Cheney. He knows that the time to strike is when the enemy is in disarray.

Posted by: Al on June 16, 2007 at 6:37 AM | PERMALINK

I think what the liberals are saying, Al, is when a religous fundamentalist nutjob is in charge of the government, a country goes to hell. This appears to be true in both Iran and the United States. I think this country has had enough of "striking it's enemies" to last several generations, under the Retard from Crawford.

It's time to wage peace.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on June 16, 2007 at 6:53 AM | PERMALINK

Let's see, now:

1) If we attack Iran, the Iranian people will hate us and rally around their leaders, even if they aren't particularly fond of those leaders. (Tribalism 101, Al.)

2) If Iran's leaders fuck up the country economically, and institute censorship to keep them from talking about it, then the Iranian people are going to be pissed at their leaders.

3) So threatening to attack Iran now, while Iran's rulers are doing a great job of running the country into the ground all by themselves, is incredibly dumb. I have no idea how that serves any of our interests.

I'm convinced that Bush, Cheney, and the rest of that crew believe the whole world, except for a handful of bad guys, loves us and is waiting for us to rescue them. That's the only set of assumptions I can think of where their actions make sense. But it's not how the world works.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist (formerly RT) on June 16, 2007 at 7:14 AM | PERMALINK

Dick Cheyney must be in a hurry. Just think the Ayatollahs and Ahmadinejad are ousted by their people before he gets his air strikes.

Posted by: Jörgen in Germany on June 16, 2007 at 8:00 AM | PERMALINK

The collapse of our nation now appears to have reached the point where the populace no longer knows what is wrong and the leadership no longer knows what is right.

Posted by: soothsayer on June 16, 2007 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

So, you folks are willing to base your thinking now on an article by Robin Wright in The Washington Post?

How amusing.

Posted by: journalism101 on June 16, 2007 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

We should keep reminding people, that talking about what to do about Iran as is A-jab will always be in power, is a fallacy.

Posted by: Neil B. on June 16, 2007 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

First, Cheney and Bush helped Osama by invading Iraq. Then, they helped Iranian hardliners win elections in Iran by their "Axis of Evil" rhetoric.

It seems obvious that they're doing this on purpose. Republicans think that Clinton got elected because of the end of the Cold War. Now, they're being careful to ensure there are plenty of external threats for Republican's use at election time.

Posted by: RepubAnon on June 16, 2007 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

I call bullshit. Excepting that Bush has an easier to pronounce name you can write much the same venom about his administration:

Bush's economic policies have failed, causing a 45% increase in gasoline prices since February, a 5% slide in the dollar relative to the Euro, an ever widening gap between rich and poor, and a record low Presidential approval rating.

In the face of increasing media scrutiny for partisan activity, the Bush DOJ is openly and defiantly tightening the screws on democratic secretary of states around the country, pressuring them to drop voters from the voter rolls -- and hinting at other acts they may be willing to undertake in order to hold on to power. They have dismissed the democratic congress as an irrelevant focus group and have maneuvered within the court system to keep the judicial branch from reviewing many of its controversial policies. With respect to numerous ongoing congressional investigations, internal investigations, and administratioin scandals, the Bush administration is stubbornly resorting to lies, legal maneuvering, and heel dragging.

Bush himself is unwilling to go out in public in the vicinity of crowds unless they have been carefully screened by security officers, except of course when he is far away from his own restless public (for example in Albania, an easteran europe puppet state in his extrajudicial "war on terror").

Posted by: B on June 16, 2007 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

"So, you folks are willing to base your thinking now on an article by Robin Wright in The Washington Post?"

LOL.... Can't actually refute any of the data in the article so you have to issue a pathetic ad hominem attack?

How amusing.

And no, dear heart, just like all thinking individuals, we gather data from a variety of sources when we develop our opinion on world affairs. How do you do it, dear?

Posted by: PaulB on June 16, 2007 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Not saying I want to live in Iran, but the article includes many sensationalist and irrelevent facts and no evidence that the economy is cratering. The booing an administration official at a college campus isn't neccessarily the slippery slope to a new revolution and should actually sound sort of familiar to those that watch our domestic news. I'm actually not sure how to interpret the comments of Iranian exhiles concerning this new totalitarian crack down after seeing what else is thrown in the article.

Posted by: B on June 16, 2007 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Not saying I want to live in Iran, but the article includes many sensationalist and irrelevent facts and no evidence that the economy is cratering.

Well, it does mention 20% inflation and a recent rise of 25% in gas prices. If those are both true, you're talking some serious negative impacts.

Posted by: frankly0 on June 16, 2007 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

B, that campus demonstration occurred in December.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 16, 2007 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

US gas prices went from 2.20 to 3.20 between February and June (45%). Getting one month of data for Iran isn't much to go on. I suspect there might be a global process involved, perhaps with a small component related to sanctions and getting parts for refineries.

Our food inflation rate is 6.5%. and our energy inflation rate is even higher. 20% is high, but it's no Zimbabwe. And there is definitely a bottom to this "economic collapse" as Iran has a lot of something the world wants. A majority of Iranians favor getting the bomb -- perhaps largely because they don't want to follow the Iraq model. I assume they are willing to suffer some of the consequences of the sanctions that go along with this.

BTW, what's the inflation rate in Iraq?

Posted by: B on June 16, 2007 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

B, that campus demonstration occurred in December.

And I saw burning signs at Stanford while Condi was giving the commencement address a couple of years ago and protests on stage as Card got his honorary degree a couple of weeks ago.

Takes bigger balls in Iran, undoubtedly.

Posted by: B on June 16, 2007 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

sufficiently annoyed by you

Posted by: Toby Petzold on June 16, 2007 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

mhr, Joe Lieberman isn't a Democrat, he isn't liberal, and I'm not even sure he is human.

Posted by: DFH on June 16, 2007 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

The reason we are dealing with Ahmadinejad instead of Rafsanjani is the fault of the Iraq war and the hardline approach of the bush administration (axis of evil. . . .). I have no doubt that Rafsanjani would have stayed in power if we allowed him to make progress in in international trade and diplomacy.

How the f#$K is Toby Petzold going to liberate the Iranians? With nuclear bunker busters?

Posted by: B on June 16, 2007 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

I guess my own take on the Iran situation does not follow the standard left blogosphere line.

I really do see Iran as very unstable and a potential major threat, years down the line, if they acquire a nuclear capability. I see some important "progressive" segments of the population, but also a large and mostly intractable group of religious fanatics whose behavior is irrational and unpredictable.

Throwing a nuclear capability into this mix of conflicting and erratic forces is a prescription for great peril. I don't see how anyone could confidently predict that some new "Revolutionary" segment couldn't lay its hands on a nuclear weapon and, in a moment of fanaticism or incompetence or revenge use it themselves or hand it off to terrorists who would.

While I appreciate that there are other countries that do have nuclear weapons which are also unstable, I think Iran might well be the least predictable nation which has a relatively near term (5-10 years?) potential for a nuclear capability. In any case, the world is certainly safer the fewer such nations there might be.

Now I think that the situation is Iran is actually quite hopeful IF you have in power in the US a President with a real disposition for diplomacy. In fact, of course, the very economic chaos we see in Iran is a Godsend if you're trying to shape a good outcome in the country. You simply offer them economic incentives to eliminate their nuclear program. Those incentives are likely irresistible to any regime wishing to maintain power in the face of economic disaster.

For all that, it is still important that a President not take the option of military strike off the table; the stick persuades as well as the carrot. But the real key to effective diplomacy is that the public and private statements by the President take into account the effect threats and incentives will have on the domestic politics of Iran. Obviously, overplaying the military option would only backfire.

Now I've described what an intelligent and disciplined and effective President would do. It's no revelation to anyone but the American dead-enders that there's no one in the entirety of the Bush WH in possession of those personal attributes.

So the real trick for all of us is to get past the period of collective madness called the Bush Presidency with the Iran issue untouched by primate hands. Fortunately, the disgust with the Bush Presidency's incompetence in foreign policy is so great and so broad that it's going to be nigh impossible for them to make anything happen with Iran.

Posted by: frankly0 on June 16, 2007 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

I think Iran might well be the least predictable nation which has a relatively near term (5-10 years?) potential for a nuclear capability..

Been reading the 'Is Musharaf toast' articles here and elsewhere much?

Pakistan has the bomb, now.
Pakistan has a record of supporting extremism, via it's ISI, today
Pakistan has a history of circumventing existing nonproliferation regimes (A.Q. Khan).
They even burned down our embassy in Islamabad. It's still standing in Teheran -- empty, but there.

You're worrying about the wrong problem, because Ahmadinejad has a big mouth, Israel has a strong lobby, and Bush needs Musharaf for his excellent Middle East adventure.


Posted by: Davis X. Machina on June 16, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

mhr, Joe Lieberman isn't a Democrat, he isn't liberal, and I'm not even sure he is human.

His own party wants him to go over his bellicose remarks on Iran:

(WTNH) _ The Connecticut for Lieberman Party is calling on Senator Joseph Lieberman to resign from the U.S. Senate following his remarks made Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation regarding military action against Iran....
...The Connecticut for Lieberman Chair, Dr. John Orman, called for Lieberman's resignation saying that he "crossed the line" and "no longer represents the views of the citizens of Connecticut."

On Iran, Blue Girl at 3:14 AM is right. Ditto, ditto, ditto.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on June 16, 2007 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Davis X. Machina is right, too. Excellent comments.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on June 16, 2007 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Googling "Iranian Economic Collapse" I get the following timeline:

A May 9th article in the Wall Street Journal (opinion page?) by Iranian exhile journalist Amir Taheri, whose previous claims to fame are falsely accusing Iran's UN ambassador of being a hostage taker in 1979 (He was going to school in the US at the time), and falsely claiming the Iranian parliament recently passed a law to make all jews wear badges identifying them as Jews.

In the article it is reported that the Iranian inflation rate is only 12% and they may go from a trade surplus to a trade deficit in 2008 (if oil prices fall).

Asia Times and the Christian Broadcast Network chimed in on May 30th. In the Asia Times article there is information concerning where the economic numbers come from: "Iranian dissidents put overall unemployment at" and qualifiers inserted in front of the actual numbers: "inflation rate of about 20%".

And now a Washington Post article without the qualifiers.

I have no doubt that Iran faces future problems because of their rapid population growth and huge reliance on oil revenues to keep their economy moving and provide subsidies to the poor.

However, their economic collapse has been predicted by analysts many times since 1979. Wake me up when Mugabe and Kim Jong-il lose power because of economic hardship and I'll join you in closing my eyes and sending happy thoughts toward Iran.

Posted by: B on June 16, 2007 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Dick Cheney is still busily pushing for military strikes.

Now, perhaps, you understand why Billmon used to call it the Cheney Administration. Surely, Dick Cheney wouldn't dream of letting his vice president run a rogue operation out of the Naval Observatory.

Posted by: s9 on June 16, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

yes, my people are getting restless. i need something to unite all iranians, maybe all muslims. perhaps if someone launched a military strike against our soveriegn nation -- but who would be stupid enough to do that?

Posted by: ahmadinejiad on June 16, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Davis X. Machina,

I don't dispute that Pakistan represents a real problem, probably the worst country which NOW has a nuclear capability. For what it's worth, the forces currently in power seem a little more stable than the mix in Iran, though of course one hardly knows for sure how things might turn out.

But what is your point? That because Pakistan might be as bad as Iran is potentially, then we shouldn't try every thing in our power to keep still another unstable irresponsible country from acquiring nuclear weapons?

Do you understand the concept of nuclear non-proliferation, that we should seek to REDUCE the numbers of parties who have nuclear weapons, and most especially those with a historic of erratic behavior?

This is where the logic of the left blogosphere just loses me.

Posted by: frankly0 on June 16, 2007 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

B, I think you might have confused Rafsanjani with Khatami. Rafsanjani left office during Clinton's term; Khatami was the reformer that Bush put on the Axis of Evil.

Posted by: eeyn524 on June 16, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

FO: This is where the logic of the left blogosphere just loses me.

You lose me somewhere between the broad generalization of "the left blogosphere" and advocacy for an unrestrained military response "everything in our power".

Posted by: toast on June 16, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Creating another failed state in the ME. Yeah, that's going to end well.
Sure this failure is plenty home-grown, but Bushco certainly haven't helped the process.

Posted by: Maynard Handley on June 16, 2007 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

eeyn524, yes, both had more progressive economic policies, and both were better than Ahmandineabafalgkjalkfja;dsjf in terms of interacting with the west.

When we invaded Iraq, Ahmadineadflkjadsfl;kjasdl;fj was a third rate college professor who was unknown to the majority of Iranians.

Posted by: B on June 16, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know what point Kevin is trying to make here, but it seems to me that if the Iranian public is restive and the ruling regime is scared, that probably is a good thing. And being ready for military action also probably is a prudent thing.

The complexities of any intervention in Iran, in view of our challenges in Iraq and the current U.S. political climate, may make successful intervention in Iran virtually impossible, but we need to be ready for military action if necessary. I used to think there was a fair chance for a wave of freedom and democracy from Afghanistan through Lebanon, but I think our political climate and the Iraq experience pretty much precludes us from providing the U.S. support necessary to possibly achieve that result any time in the reasonably near future. That is too bad in one sense, but there is also something to be said for the argument that the cost would be way too high in view of the likelihood of success and benefit to us.

Posted by: brian on June 16, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

I really do see Iran as very unstable

In the history of revolutions, Iran's progress has been very stable. Almost all cultures have intractable religious institutions, including ours, which creates the propaganda themes that those other religious cultural institutions are radical and need to be feared. Any fears Americans have about Iranian nuclear armament, outside of a desire to see the abolishment of all nuclear weapons, is a result of a cultural bias created by the prevailing religious authority and the demogogic politics the individuals who want to become leaders practice. To say Iran is too radical to be allowed to have nukes is to deny our reason for having nukes and why other countries, many who are our allies, have them, too.

Posted by: Brojo on June 16, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

"I guess my own take on the Iran situation does not follow the standard left blogosphere line."

There is no "standard left blogosphere" line. The "left blogosphere" is all over the map on Iran, with the possible exception that I believe there is widespread agreement that launching a war against Iran right now is insane.

Posted by: PaulB on June 16, 2007 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

The "left blogosphere" is all over the map on Iran, with the possible exception that I believe there is widespread agreement that launching a war against Iran right now is insane.

Well, I won't disagree that one can find some opinions here and there in the left blogosphere to the effect that Iran represents a very real problem that must be addressed, perhaps some reasonably distant day even in the extreme by military force.

But I've got to say that I haven't seen that sentiment very often expressed. Mostly, I've just seen arguments that Iran doesn't represent a major potential threat, and that military force is NOT in any case an option we should ever entertain.

This seems to me to be in fact a major breaking point between the left blogosphere and the major Democratic candidates. Every time they mention that the will keep "all options on the table" with regard to Iran, they are pilloried by the left blogosphere. And yet I think that that position is the ONLY intelligent position for a Presidential candidate to take, and NOT just for political reasons.

Certainly I understand that people want to say NOTHING to encourage the likes of Bush and Cheney to strike Iran while they are in office. Yet someday soon a Democrat will be President. That Democratic President is going to have to be able to handle Iran correctly. It's not going to be a good thing for the blogosphere to position itself on the wrong side of the issue simply because of its disgust and horror, understandable though it may be, over the misbehavior of the Bush WH.

Posted by: frankly0 on June 16, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Ahmadinejad may be Iran's W. Bush, but that is not a good enough reason to attack Iran for their president's stupid comments. W. Bush and other members of the administration have used similar inflammatory rhetoric about what they would like to do to Iran and other nations, and no one is saying the US should be attacked because we are an unstable radical nation bent on exerting our power on the region.

Posted by: Brojo on June 16, 2007 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I won't disagree that one can find some opinions here and there in the left blogosphere to the effect that Iran represents a very real problem that must be addressed, perhaps some reasonably distant day even in the extreme by military force.

Um, nearly every liberal blog post on Iran you read prefaces the post by acknowledging that Iran constitutes a genuine, difficult problem. The question is what to do about it. Military action is obviously "always an option," but to what end? What would you bomb? What would you hope to accomplish? Would bombing Iran only serve to strengthen the hardliners? Can Iran's nuclear facilities even be located? Does Iran present a direct military threat to the U.S., or just Israel? Should Israel take care of it's own dirty work? Look, if you want to bomb Iran, that's fine. But explain what you would bomb and what you would hope to accomplish. Make an argument. Don't just waive your dick around hoping to impress people. It's not that big.

One false notion that articles like this promote is that life in Iran is terrible for the average citizen. It is not. I know many Iranian/Persians who return to Iran on a regular basis. (I personally know three people who have been there in the last six months, in fact.) They describe the government as oppressive, but manageable; the culture as frustrated, but vibrant; the Iranian people as optimistic and far more progressive than most in the Middle East. They want more freedom, but they won't destroy their own lives for it.

Take, for example, the issue of women. Being a woman in Iran is far easier than being a woman in Sunni Arab states such as Saudi Arabia. Iranian women own property, drive cars, and cover only parts of their hair. Why is this? Well, I would argue that although Iran's government enforces strict social protocal, Iranian culture is far less conservative than the Sunni Arab culture of our Middle East allies. In Iran, the goverment will hastle a woman for her dress; in Saudi Arabia, her own brother will beat her for it.

What I'm saying is this: people have it tough in Iran, but it is not so tough as to justify turning their country into a warzone. There is no "human rights" argument that justifies invading Iran. If you think you can justify a military strike in terms of American national security, be my guest. But leave the "freedom for Iranians" arguments behind. They want and deserve freedom, to be sure. But not at the barrel of American guns.

Posted by: owenz on June 16, 2007 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

keep "all options on the table" with regard to Iran,... that position is the ONLY intelligent position for a Presidential candidate to take...

From a strategic point of view, Iran must also take this same position, especially in regards to the US and Israel. If a strategy is rational for one belligerent, it must be rational for the other, which is why Iran needs nukes to protect itself from the radicals of the US and Israel, who have created much more state violence and made more direct threats in the past twenty-five years than Iran has.

Posted by: Brojo on June 16, 2007 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

"But I've got to say that I haven't seen that sentiment very often expressed. Mostly, I've just seen arguments that Iran doesn't represent a major potential threat, and that military force is NOT in any case an option we should ever entertain."

You're missing a couple of key qualifiers. That paragraph is more appropriate rendered:

Iran doesn't represent a major threat for at least the next several years, based on the information that's available to us at this time. Military force is NOT, in any case, an option we should entertain at this time.

I think that's a reasonable summation of the prevailing viewpoint of many bloggers on the left.

Posted by: PaulB on June 16, 2007 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

I do not presume to speak for the "left blogosphere." I can only refer to what I remember reading on the sites I frequent.

"Every time they mention that the will keep 'all options on the table' with regard to Iran, they are pilloried by the left blogosphere."

That's not quite accurate, I think. What I've seen them pilloried for is a) the vaguessness of that statement, b) buying into the neocon frame that "something needs to be done now" about Iran, and c) implicitly buying into the frame that that "something" absolutely needs to include military action.

Mostly, I think, they're getting pilloried because all too many on the liberal side of the spectrum remember what happened in the runup to the Iraq war and remember how few people had the courage to challenge the conventional wisdom. What many of us are seeing with respect to Iran is a repeat of the rhetoric of five years ago and we're damned if we're going to through that again without speaking up.

Posted by: PaulB on June 16, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

B, I think you might have confused Rafsanjani with Khatami. Rafsanjani left office during Clinton's term; Khatami was the reformer that Bush put on the Axis of Evil.
Posted by: eeyn524 on June 16, 2007 at 1:31 PM

Yes, Khatami was the one that offered us a generous deal back in 2002 and we refused. Then we shit and fell back in it in Iraq and now Bush's political capital is nothing but laughingstock. Had we been serious with Khatami and made nice with Iran and not invaded Iraq we might have had the best of all worlds in the region: No Ahmadinejad, Saddam still contained, trade with Iran, unspoiled relations with Europe, no ridiculous Lebanese war, and a better domestic economic picture.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on June 16, 2007 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

If the Iranian economy is not doing well with high oil prices then we can bring down the current government if we slap a $3 a gallon tax on gas and other oil products.

If we put a serious tax on oil then our short term consumption would go down just a little but our long term consumption would go down significantly and the price of oil would drop by $10 a barrel.

That would be more than enough to cripple the Iranian economy to the point where nothing could keep the government in power.

Posted by: neil wilson on June 16, 2007 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

...the Iranian economy is cratering, the public is increasingly restive, and the ruling regime is scared.

I get the first two, but "the ruling regime is scared" doesn't necessarily obtain. IIRC it was Sadjadpour who made the point that this may simply be the effect of hardliners' consolidation and extension of control; the economic cost and public disaffection is manageable fallout, and pressure from the West provides a ready excuse.

Posted by: has407 on June 16, 2007 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

The Post is a neocon paper these days, and it simply isn't trustworthy when it writes about conditions in Iran, unless their reporting is confirmed by some other source.

Especially watch out for quotes from exiles; a lot of them are living in a dream world, especially those exiles whose families held high positions under the shah.

I do get the impression that the Iranian regime is not popular, but at the same time Iranians are nationalists. They will unite around a bad regime if Iran is attacked (and they won't see it as an attack on the regime, it will be an attack on Iran).

Posted by: Joe Buck on June 16, 2007 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Neil Wilson: >"... then we can bring down the current government ..."

You want to bring down a government, the I would suggest that you start with your own, and leave the Iranians alone. They are certainly no threat to anyone over here, and they haven't done anything to warrant this blatant warmongering on the administration's part.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on June 16, 2007 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

The Iranian people appreciate support from us and I wish we were doing more to support the students, such as Iranian language broadcasts. Cheney is proposing one option that will probably not be necessary but you might remember (You won't of course) that Nazi Germany was not sustainable economically in the long run. By 1939 Germany was technically bankrupt. The temptation of a tyranny to attack its neighbors as a distraction from domestic troubles is a fact of history. Iran is the single largest source of terrorism and support for terrorism in the world. They have been at war with us since 1979.

Posted by: Mike K on June 16, 2007 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Dick Cheney and what's left of his neocons cannot attack Iran, they cannot bomb Iran, etc., etc.

The U.S. General Staff must plan and carry out such a mission.

Will the General Staff take such orders from Cheney even if they come through Bush?

Will Gates roll over and play dead?

Will the Congress go along?

Will the people follow?

Posted by: generalstuff on June 16, 2007 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

"The Iranian people appreciate support from us"

That's what you said about the Iraqi people. How's that working out for you?

"Cheney is proposing one option that will probably not be necessary"

He's not "proposing," he's lobbying for it, insisting that it is our best option. The option, at this time, is insane.

"but you might remember (You won't of course) that Nazi Germany was not sustainable economically in the long run."

Sigh... More idiotic Nazi comparisons. We heard those about Saddam, as well.

"The temptation of a tyranny to attack its neighbors as a distraction from domestic troubles is a fact of history."

It's even more of a temptation to unite its people against an enemy who threatens it. Gee, guess which enemy the Iranian leaders are pointing to? And guess which U.S. politicians are giving them reason to point?

"They have been at war with us since 1979."

No, actually, they haven't, not by any reasonable definition of that word. I know it makes you feel better to write crap like that, but that's all it is: crap.

Posted by: PaulB on June 16, 2007 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K said
"They have been at war with us since 1979."

Mike K, I agree with you that Michael Ledeen, John Poindexter, Oliver North and Ronald Reagan should have been tried for treason and executed as traitors for selling arms to the enemy during time of war

Posted by: MikeN on June 17, 2007 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

Mike K: "The temptation of a tyranny to attack its neighbors as a distraction from domestic troubles is a fact of history."

God, how I detest intellectual poseurs.

What you know about history would fit into a thimble.

Iran has not been an aggressor since the days of the old Parthian Empire, when they sparred constantly with Rome over control of the Middle East -- and actually drove the Romans from both Mesopatamia and Armenia in 114-117 A.D. The Parthian Empire came to an ignonimous end in the 7th century A.D. when Muslim armies drove the empire north from the Persian Gulf region and then into political oblivion.

Iran has no recent history -- and by recent history, I refer to the last 1,000 years -- of threatening either its immediate neighbors or other nations outside the region. Rather, the opposite has been true.

During that period, the Persian people have endured repeated incursions, invasions and occupations, and manipulations by Arabs, Mongols, and Turks, and in the 20th century from Russians, British, Iraqis and Americans.

The Iranians are a threat only in your own mind. Leave them alone.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on June 17, 2007 at 3:32 AM | PERMALINK

"Iran doesn't represent a major threat for at least the next several years, based on the information that's available to us at this time. Military force is NOT, in any case, an option we should entertain at this time."
____________________

This is certainly true. It's possible that the Cheney saber-rattling is simply an accompaniment to further negotiations through the Europeans.

Of far greater worry is the Iranian support for Hezbollah and Hamas. What can be done to counter that activity isn't very clear, either

Posted by: trashhauler on June 17, 2007 at 5:19 AM | PERMALINK

Trashauler, that's the most rational post I've ever seen from you.

I, however, disagree that Cheney is merely saber rattling to get better negotiating terms. Especially since the present administration has repeatedly rejected negotiating with Iran.

And as far as their support of terror groups, I think our present embargo is sufficient. Making sure that they understand that it will stop when they stop funding these groups.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on June 17, 2007 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

"...those in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office who, according to some people familiar with the discussions, are pressing for greater consideration of military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities."

There will never be enough carnage and atrocities in the Middle East to satisfy this administration.

Anonymous, innocent victims continue to perish in war and in the cycle of oppression.

This of course, continuing-- even as the Bush/Cheney war machine announced that "major combat operations" had ended May 1, 2003.

The adminstration appears totally desensitized to the pain and suffering of others.
This will be their legacy.

Look at the unacceptable state of Walter Reed not long ago a mere stone's throw away from them. Our poorly treated veterans. And so many deceased troops from a war that should never have been waged.

Posted by: consider wisely always on June 17, 2007 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

I notice that all assume that Iran is "a problem." This is presumably because we assume that that a) Iran is going to build nuclear weapons and b) that would be bad for ....... oh, yea, Israel.

What never gets much consideration is who Iran’s neighbors are and what they are doing with nuclear weapons and terrorism. If you were an Iranian leader, you’d be trying to beef up your armed forces also. Doesn’t make their plans right, but does move their actions from the category of “insane non-Arab towel-head craziness” into “reflecting of national interests.” And thus, means, they might actually be susceptible to diplomacy.

Secondly, what never gets any consideration is that in 2005 the Supreme Leader issued a fatwa banning the development of nuclear weapons by Iran and terming those weapons not something any Islamic country should have. Again, that may have been window dressing, but it was a pretty serious and definitive statement – odd that we never consider what weight it might have in assessing Iranian intentions. Oh yea, forgot, we don’t really care about their actual intentions, we’re just trying to whip up the next installment of fear.

Posted by: JohnN on June 17, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

in 2005 the Supreme Leader issued a fatwa banning the development of nuclear weapons by Iran

Thanks. The Iran worriers only paraphrase Ahmadinejad, ignoring Iran's institutional leadership.

Posted by: Brojo on June 17, 2007 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Ozzie Osbourne said it best--(1981)

GOING OFF THE RAILS ON A CRAZY TRAIN

Posted by: consider wisely always on June 17, 2007 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

Think what damage could be done to the Iranian regime by a sensible conservation initiative here in the US. Just asking people to use 10% less gasoline by keeping tires inflated, gas tanks half empty, etc. would probably bring Ahmedinajad down.

Posted by: bob h on June 18, 2007 at 5:42 AM | PERMALINK

Instead of finding ways to damage a peaceful nation that has done us no harm, let us consider ways to become friends and partners. I think there is much more benefit for everyone with that approach.

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